MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Here’s how fast the NFL changes: Tua Tagovailoa reported to Miami Dolphins training camp Tuesday as the NFL’s 27th highest-paid quarterback. Before he could take his first practice snap of camp, he was bumped down to No. 28.
That’s because the Los Angeles Chargers decided to go all-in on fellow 2020 NFL Draft classmate Justin Herbert, agreeing to pay him a record-breaking $52.5 million annually over the next five seasons.
What Does Justin Herbert’s Contract Mean for Tua Tagovailoa?
“QB1 of 1,” the Chargers tweeted out moments before sending out a news release to formally announce the extension.
More like QB1 is No. 1 in terms of salary.
Herbert’s deal — assuming NFL Media’s numbers are correct — edges out the one Lamar Jackson agreed to earlier this spring by a half-mil per season.
And it again resets the market for every quarterback that follows. Patrick Mahomes is now severely underpaid. Expect the Chiefs to rectify that before too long. Joe Burrow will break records too.
But what does that mean for Tagovailoa, who is on track to make $1 million this year and $23.1 million next?
We’ll ask him post-practice Wednesday when he’s expected to speak to reporters. But our advice to Tua is to be patient. Because if Tagovailoa does sign an extension this summer, the numbers will fall short of Herbert’s.
Tagovailoa was fantastic in 2022, but are the Dolphins willing to commit $218.7 million in guaranteed money to him like the Chargers have Herbert?
That would be an enormous gamble at this point, particularly given Tua’s health history. He missed much of the 2022 season and the Dolphins’ playoff game after suffering (at least) two concussions.
And if the Dolphins rip up his existing contract and give him one multiple times larger, it would push their finances to their breaking point. Miami is already $50 million over the cap in 2024. Adding significantly more salary to those books this year would be paralyzing next offseason.
Not long after he decided to pick up Tagovailoa’s fully guaranteed fifth-year option, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier was asked about the prospect of getting an extension done with Tagovailoa this offseason.
“We’ve had a lot of internal discussions between Mike (McDaniel), Marvin (Allen), Brandon (Shore), Steve (Ross), Tom Garfinkel, as well. So all options are on the table like I said then, but we decided that for us, and we always hope Tua will be here, successful long term with us. And at the end of the day, we made this decision and decided to move forward in the offseason to get it going.”
Here’s something that Grier didn’t say but is absolutely true:
Tagovailoa needs to do two things this season — play well and stay healthy.
He does that, and the numbers will take care of themselves.
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